As early as 1967, Professor Johan Arndt from the Colombia Graduate School Of Business identified “word of mouth” as “one of the most important, if not the most important source of information for the consumer”. As time marches on, word of mouth has only become more influential.
The plethora of information online has resulted in “official” marketing messages, produced by companies, being seen as less credible and, therefore, less influential than in any previous age. This, together with the decline of trust in institutions, has meant that we increasingly turn to our colleagues, friends and family for information we trust.
Of course, social proof — in other words what others say and do — has always been one of the most influential factors in the decisions we make. However, the web, together with digital technology and the resulting rise of social platforms, means that today we can access more social proof with greater ease than ever before.
Word of mouth has always happened face-to-face and that is still the case. However, there are now two important factors to consider. Firstly, where the catalyst for word of mouth was often broadcast media such as TV, billboards and adverts; today, a growing catalyst for word of mouth is online media. Secondly, conventional word of mouth and online are merging, as more of us post opinions on social platforms, having conversations online rather than face-to-face.
Search is going social and the web has become our primary source of information when searching for products and services. The result is that the most important marketers, for any company today, are its engaged community of customers, prospects, partners and suppliers.
The more public support or advocates a company has, the more likely it is to be commercially successful. Rather than broadcast messages as in yesteryear, marketers today are more like facilitators, creating value, fuelling conversations and encouraging people to become involved with the company. In so doing, it is the participants themselves who become the most effective communicators of an organisation’s message.
This means businesses have to become masters of particular disciplines. Using social listening tools, a company must learn what its customers and prospects talk about and share. In so doing, it becomes more likely that a company will create content that will be well received and shared by the community it wishes to engage.
Data becomes vitally important as companies track their own content that has the biggest impact and is shared most widely. By obtaining an understanding of what content works, a business can then produce better material on an ongoing basis. Using data to understand the people most likely to share, and those with the greatest influence, means a business can invest extra time and resources nurturing these particular individuals.
Businesses should also be encouraging advocacy. That is, supporting and providing platforms where customers can leave reviews. In business to business environments, companies that are engaging face-to-face with customers should be asking if they can use positive feedback as a testimonial on LinkedIn or in a tweet.
Word of mouth has always been vital. In the past, many companies have left it to chance hoping that providing a great experience will lead to positive recommendations. Of course, this still happens. However, on its own, it is no longer enough. Businesses now have to be more strategic about garnering word of mouth.
So, what are you doing to encourage advocacy?
Where there’s a great experience then there’s probably great care.
Just been to Dans le Noir - a truly remarkable restaurant in London (and Paris).
What makes it so special and worthy of mention?
Just think about it.
The whole concept challenges how you ‘see’ flavours and textures and how you relate to your food. It is mind-blowing. You have to go. It is like no other restaurant. And the “blinded guides” have to care for you while you are totally outside your comfort zone.
The experience is wild and challenging. Spending a couple of hours without any sight makes you re-evaluate your fortune at being sighted, think about what it must be like to be blind, and messes with your palate. You have little idea what you are eating. Crazy. The experience lingers for days.
My point. Dans le Noir is a true experience. You don’t forget it. You tell everyone about it. Remarkable. A business. And it increases public awareness about blindness.
If only more businesses could offer a true experience.
It was inevitable with a name like ours and the increasing popularity of franchises of a certain chain of donut makers that our website would take some hits from people searching ‘Marketing Donuts’.
I have an interesting tale to share with you all as to how one of these franchises has gone about announcing their arrival in Bristol and marketed their donut products.
Last month I watched the England versus Slovenia match in the centre of Bristol at the Football Fan Park facility. This is essentially a square in the centre of Bristol that has a giant screen and a fenced off arena where football fans can congregate to have their hopes and dreams of national sporting glory dashed once again.
During the second half of the encounter which saw us secure second place in our group and prolong the inevitable demise, there were people walking into the arena with boxes of sugar glazed ring donuts. The more people that came in with donuts, the more people left to seek confectionery
Outside the arena there was a van packed full of trays of donuts and a sizeable but orderly queue of people receiving a free box of donuts. By the time the final whistle had been blown, the crowd inside the arena raced to the exit to join what became a sickening display of greed. The scenes were reminiscent of an aid convey arriving in an earthquake ravaged town. (Responsibility for the welfare of the public on the part of the company was tossed in the air like the final few boxes of donuts as the polite queue fast became a scrum of over one hundred people.)
The cost of this exercise may have been sizeable for the company but the clever part has been the size of reach that they will have achieved. Hand out a single donut and you make one person happy. Hand out a box of twelve and you empower that one very happy person to do the leg work for you in sharing the product and news of the soon-to-be-open new store with others. Seeding the public with samples of donuts has raised awareness of the new addition to Bristol. Word of mouth never tasted so good.
How do you encourage word of mouth with your existing customers?